by Steve EwenSpecial to the Langley Advance
It’s easy to forget how old Dylan Plouffe is sometimes.
He’s played more games in Vancouver Giants colours than any of their current defencemen. Granted, that’s linked to Matt Barberis missing so much injury time last season.
Plouffe is getting as much ice time now as any of the rearguards on the squad. Of course, that’s connected to Darian Skeoch, the No. 1 blue-liner, being on the shelf with ankle trouble.
Those caveats aside, we’ve seen so much of Plouffe already that you do a double-take when you realize that he doesn’t turn 18 until April.
His game is coming along. He looks calmer, more confident in his own zone. He’s not as sloppy with the puck. And his skating, which was always his greatest asset, continues to improve. He has the ability to out-race lapses in judgment.
His play has been one of the positives in the six-game Western Hockey League losing streak that the Giants are on. Vancouver moved out several veterans at the Jan. 10 trade deadline in a bid to set themselves up for the future.
“He was our best guy, front or back,” said Giants coach Jason McKee of Plouffe’s effort in a 3-0 loss to the Victoria Royals on Tuesday. “He was affecting the play in all three zones.
“The game seems to be slowing down for him. I’m a big believer that when you get comfortable the game slows down for you. He seems pretty confident right now.
“From the first half to the second half, I can say unequivocally that he’s improving. We need that. We need to upgrade the skill level around here. We need guys to improve individually.”
Plouffe is part of that 1999-born class that McKee and general manager Glen Hanlon say the franchise is trying to build around now.
Plouffe, a Sherwood Park, Alta., product, was a second-round pick, 29th overall in the 2014 WHL bantam draft, and is one of six players out of the first 44 chosen that year that Vancouver has on its roster.
“I think I have a bit more confidence with the circumstances that I’m in,” said Plouffe, a left-handed shot listed at six feet tall, 185 pounds.
“It’s nice to be playing with confidence and making some plays that I’m used to making.
“With the injuries to guys last year and now this year, I’ve been put into a situation where I’ve needed to step my game up in a more mature way. I think I’ve been able to step into that role.”
He admits consistency is something he needs to work on.
“I still feel young. I still make mistakes out there, like a kid my age will make,” Plouffe said.
Skeoch (ankle) had a setback in his rehabilitation this week. It’s difficult to guess when he might be back, but his return would take pressure off the entire defence group.
It’ll be interesting to see what Plouffe is like when that happens. It will also be interesting to see what he’s like in the coming years.
“I’m excited about the future with this team, seeing how young we are. I hope to get better in all facets to help this team win. We want to make a run at it (Memorial Cup) in years coming.”
• Next game tonight (Friday, Jan. 20) versus the Kelowna Rockets at Langley Events Centre. Puck drops at 7:30 p.m.– Steve Ewen is a writer with The Province